Only one former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date, and he played just one big league game. We also have a manager, who stuck around for six seasons and an impressive hitting feat from before the turn of the century.
Drew Rader, pitcher for the Pirates on July 18, 1921. Before he signed with the Pirates, he was a star pitcher for Syracuse University, claimed by some to be the best amateur pitcher around as a freshman. Prior to enrolling in college, Pittsburgh tried to sign the young pitcher, who was said to be equally strong at pitching with either hand, although he was known as “lefty”. The Pirates upped the offer to Rader after his first season, asking him to leave school and join the team for Spring Training in 1921. He had some semi-pro experience in 1920, but his pro career began in the majors after making the team out of Spring Training. Rader was getting a lot of good press for his spring performance, though he had an outing on March 25th that was forgettable in an intrasquad game. In five innings, he allowed four runs on ten hits, while facing a lineup filled mostly with guys who were sent to the minors (including Pie Traynor). It turned out that he had it in his contract that he wouldn’t be sent to the minors, so he really wasn’t competing for a spot. Rader was with the Pirates for a few months before he finally got to pitch in a game that counted. He roomed with another rookie, Moses “Chief” Yellow Horse, a full-blooded American Indian. By early June, the two were said to be close friends.
Rader finally got into a game on July 18th, although it took a 12-1 deficit late in the game to actually get him off the end of the bench. He pitched two scoreless innings against the New York Giants that day, giving up a single in each frame. In an exhibition game six days later, Rader pitched a complete game against a minor league team from Rochester. He allowed ten runs, but got the win when the Pirates put up 15 runs. It was said after the game that he pitched the entire game with a back injury that occurred days earlier while catching fly balls in the outfield. He took the loss in a game against top collegiate players on August 21st, though he allowed just two runs in five innings. Rader was used often as a batting practice pitcher and he suffered an ankle injury when he was hit with a liner on August 26th. It would be the end of his Major League career and his career as a pro player was almost over as well. He only pitched one game in the minors in 1922 with the Reading Aces of the International League. Rader was allowed to leave the Pirates before they left for St Louis for the final five games of the 1921 season. That was partially due to the fact that teams often left home extra players to save on travel costs, but Rader also needed to have his tonsils removed. It turned out that they were bothering him for his final month with the team and prevented him from doing any pitching. When he got home, it was said that he would enroll back in Syracuse for the fall.
On February 4, 1922, the Pirates optioned Rader to Minneapolis of the American Association. Minneapolis turned him over to a team from St Joseph of the Western League and in May that team returned him to the Pirates, so he was back in Pittsburgh for a short time in 1922 without getting into a game. He was sent to Reading for one game, only to be returned to Pittsburgh because he couldn’t get into pitching shape. He asked for his release after leaving Reading, but the Pirates wouldn’t grant it to him, so he left the team to play semi-pro ball and was put on the Major League ineligible list. He coached high school baseball and played semi-pro ball in 1923, getting moved from the ineligible list to the voluntarily retired list, though the Pirates refused to give up his rights. In 1924 he became the assistant baseball coach at Syracuse and he played semi-pro ball when the college season ended. He returned to action in 1925 with Williamsport of the New York-Penn League on loan from the Pirates with the understanding that they would purchase his contract if he pitched well. He lasted exactly a week before he was released by Williamsport due to poor pitching. He played semi-pro ball again in 1926 before appendicitis ended his season early and there’s no record of him pitching after that surgery either.
Horace Phillips, manager of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys from 1884 until 1889. He was a minor league player/manager during the first season (1877) that minor league ball existed. After two years in the minors, he got the job as manager of the Troy Trojans during their first season of existence in the National League. Troy was the worst team in the NL, and Phillips lost his job after 47 games to veteran third baseman Bob Ferguson, who did no better at the helm of the team. Troy finished 19-56 on the season. Phillips returned to the minors as a player/manager in 1880, then as just a player in 1881, which was his last year as an active player. He was a manager of a team in Philadelphia in 1882, when talk of forming a second Major League began. He was instrumental in getting the American Association off the ground, but when the first season started, he was without a job in the league. In 1883, Phillips managed the Columbus Buckeyes of the American Association to a sixth place finish, 1.5 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in the standings.
In 1884, Phillips began the year managing in the minors. At the helm of a team from Grand Rapids, Michigan in the Northwestern League, he led them to a first place finish with a 48-13 record. At the same time, the Alleghenys were changing managers rapidly during their season, going through four men, including the aforemented Bob Ferguson, before they hired Phillips to finish out the year. He brought some of his own players with him and made wholesale changes, but the went just 9-24 under him and they finished in tenth place. Despite the record, Pittsburgh chose to stick with him. The 1885 Alleghenys had a huge influx of talent and they were players familiar to Phillips. When the Columbus Buckeyes franchise folded after the 1884 season, Pittsburgh bought most of their players. The moved merged a 30-78 Pittsburgh team with a second place (69-39) Columbus team, making the Alleghenys an instant contender.
Phillips led the Alleghenys to a 56-55 finish in 1885, their first winning season in the franchise’s fourth year of existence. They would get much better the next year, finishing in second place with a record of 80-57, which helped lead to the team moving from the American Association to the National League prior to the 1887 season. Phillips remained at the helm of Pittsburgh for two more full seasons, leading the club to sixth place (out of eight teams) finishes each year. In 1889, he managed the club through the middle of July, but began making odd decisions off of the field with his finances. He received a salary from the team and part of the profits, which amounted to a decent amount of money, but he began to spend money like someone who was much more wealthier. He was relieved of his managerial duties and sent back home. His doctor diagnosed him with paresis, brought on by overwork and said that Phillips has been in a slow decline for the last year. It was also said that his managerial career was over and that assessment was correct. Phillips was committed to an insane asylum a short time later and passed away in 1896. His final managerial record with the Alleghenys was 294-316 in six seasons.
On this date in 1896, Jake Stenzel collects six hits in one game for the Pirates. Pittsburgh had their bats working overtime against the Boston Beaneaters that day, collecting 27 hits and scoring twenty runs. The day before his big game he had two hits. The day after his big game, Stenzel collected another four hits, giving him 12 hits in 15 at-bats over a three-game span. Despite the streak, and the fact he hit .361 on the season, Stenzel still finished second on the team in batting by .001 to Elmer “Mike” Smith. Stenzel would be traded away by the Pirates at the end of the season, even though he was clearly a star hitter. The Pirates wanted improved defense, but the deal did not work out well, even with Stenzel ending up out of the majors by 1899.
The mound opponent for the Pirates that day was Cozy Dolan, who would make just three more starts in his career. He returned to the majors in 1900 after a three-year layoff and played another 798 games as a decent hitting outfielder. He is not to be confused with the Cozy Dolan that played outfield for the 1913 Pirates. A popular practice back in that era was to give players with the same last name as an older player, that older player’s nickname. It sounds understandable (unoriginal as well), until you realize that two pitchers with the last name Young got the nickname Cy in the 1901-1910 era.
Dolan was removed after allowing two hits in the fifth inning and Jim Sullivan was brought on. Dolan allowed nine runs, while Sullivan was tagged with 11 runs. Stenzel was 6-for-6 with six singles and three runs scored. Each of the 2-6 hitters in the lineup for the Pirates scored three runs. Elmer Smith had a nice game as well, going 2-for-3 with three walks. Bobby Lowe, who would later play for the Pirates, stole second, third and home during one trip around the bases.